Friday, July 28, 2006

Batteries aren't getting better, so Intel touts lower power consumption

SF Chron: Intel Corp. introduced its newest, fastest and most energy-efficient microprocessors July 27 in a gala event that signaled its determination to stem the inroads of rival Advanced Micro Devices. Intel's new microprocessors, which it calls Core 2 Duos, are designed to offer higher performance and lower power consumption -- a feature that is increasingly important in extending the battery life of laptops.


To get better performance at lower power consumption, Intel based the Core 2 Duo on a pair of relatively simple principles that mask a lot of engineering.

The first is the adage that two heads are better than one. Intel put two processors, side-by-side, inside a single chip and divided the computational workload between them, David Tuhy of Intel said.

To reduce power consumption, Intel relied on the slow-and-steady principle -- making a fundamental tweak to the transistors inside the chip.

Transistors are the basic unit of any chip. Imagine them as gates that swing open and shut, allowing electricity to pass through. These opening and shutting gates create the zeroes and ones that comprise the language of computer programs.

In the past, engineers sped up the rate at which these gates opened and shut, Tuhy said. That improved performance but took more power. In the Core 2 Duo, Intel slowed down this rate, opening the gates less frequently, but put many transistors into the chip -- roughly 291 million -- to create faster computation with less power.


Now, does Intel have patent protection based on the implementation of these two principles? Is AMD left in the dust?


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